We had our largest Stream Explorers group yet in Buena Vista with the cooperation of the BV Recreation Department, Boys & Girls Clubs, GARNA, and our local home school coordinator, Trish Nelson. Twenty youngsters from 5th-9th grade participated over the 4 days and 13 became Stream Explorers! To accomplish that and receive a complimentary year’s membership to Trout Unlimited plus a new 4 piece Reddington Fly Rod, reel, line, and case, they had to attend all 4 sessions. We appreciate all the parents who supported their kids!

Due to the high water and safety concerns, we were unable to go in the river to net bugs, but volunteers Ed & Vickie Eberle gathered some critters from a small stream so kids were still able to identify them with magnifying equipment and ID charts down at the River Park picnic tables. They also were able to run tests on the high, murky waters of the Arkansas for pH and dissolved oxygen which are indicators of water quality. Then they gathered some rocks, dirt, plants, and other items to put make a fish habitat in a soda bottle. Back at the classroom at Boys & Girls Clubs, the group did an experiment with small fish by counting their gill beats and relating that to the temperature of the water which they made hotter and colder. They had to plot their results on a graph and got to interpret it the next day. The fish either stayed overnight or went home with the kids in their new habitat.

On Day 2, we had to see how many fish survived (two died) and figure out why. Then we talked about the brine shrimp or “sea monkeys” we were going to use for the next experiments. We discussed the important of the scientific process and data collection. Fish were exposed to light and dark, gravity, and hot and cold an students had to repeat their measurements and again plot them on graphs. When we consolidated all the groups’ data, students came to conclusions as to the effect of these variables on shrimp behavior and related it to fish. Then we made “shrimp necklaces” to wear home.

Day 3 had us using our creative sides to tie flies based on some of the insects we identified which we hoped would catch fish. Students had to learn about new tools and techniques and materials they could use. Most tied 2-3 flies and some took vises and materials home to make even more! The last bit they learned how to remove a fly from a body part using a tangerine and how to tie fishing knots. Then we went outside and talked about the use and care of a fly rod and how to do a basic cast. All got to try and hit their human targets outside.

On Day 4, we ventured to the Kelly Pond (please thank Dave Kelly of the Hi Rocky for this). Students put together their new fly rods and practiced casting. Then they got to use their own flies (or any others) to try and catch fish. It was pretty slow to start, but then things turned on. About 15 fish were landed by the majority of the students, many on their own fly creations! There were lots of smiles around and I heard the comment, “I didn’t think I’d like fly fishing but’s it’s great!

None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of the aforementioned organizations, Mark Harms & Lois Hansen for bus transportation and our awesome volunteers: Dominique Naccarato, Keith Krebs, Rich Frey, Jim Impara, Ed & Vickie Eberle, Herb Daughtry, Mike Perry, Reed and Karen Dils. Thanks to all and our awesome kids!